By Tara Gibson - June 23, 2020
As businesses across the United States begin to move through reopening phases, there are still concerns about COVID-19 and the quick spread and easy transmission of the virus. Leaders are finding their footing and creating comprehensive back-to-work plans, as well as juggling the remote workforce, getting the office ready, and situating teams. Workplace decision makers are bound to face several obstacles, including when an employee is tested positive for the coronavirus. Unfortunately, this is still a very likely circumstance for many workplaces across the country.
As a manager, hearing this news can be quite a complex challenge as you must act quickly but still show sensitivity and express sympathy. This is an important time to be there for your employee. The individual is likely to feel extremely anxious about their job security and productivity as well as whether they have spread the virus to others, such as their coworkers, friends, and family. A business should ensure the sick employee is staying at home and following CDC-recommended steps without returning to the workplace until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met.
Although it’s important to support your employee, moving quickly to alert the rest of the company is extremely important in slowing the spread of the virus.
Once confirmed that an employee has tested positive for the coronavirus, businesses must immediately inform fellow employees about their possible exposure to the virus while still maintaining confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to CBIA. By identifying where that employee worked, as well as individuals the infected employee came into contact with during the prior 2 weeks before testing positive or displaying symptoms, workplace leaders should quickly notify the potentially exposed workers.
This can be done using your company’s mass notification solution. Users can create a comprehensive list of those exposed and send detailed instructions on self-isolation and requirements to go home to work remotely, if possible. Employers should also inform the entire company of the potential exposure, allowing anyone who is worried but may not be at risk the opportunity to work remotely as well.
Some mass notification solutions also give administrators the option to check-in on their employees with a polling feature. This can be extremely useful to ensure your workers are safe while they are isolating at home. By sending a simple message, for example, “How are you feeling today?” with multiple choice answers, businesses can monitor their employees and also instill confidence that they care about the health of their people.
Depending on where the infected employee worked, the size of the workspace, and the potential exposure of the virus, it may be necessary to close the office or workplace down, but in many cases this isn’t necessary. The CDC explains that if it has been less than 7 days since the sick employee has been in the facility, close off any areas used for prolonged periods of time by the sick person and wait at least 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize the potential of being exposed to respiratory droplets. It’s also recommended to open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in these areas. Find the CDC’s cleaning and disinfection recommendations here.
Workers who may have been exposed to the coronavirus may be fearful of having to self-isolate due to their job security. It’s important to remind your workforce that from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, federal law mandates that employers with less than 500 employees provide workers with paid sick leave or paid family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19, as per CBIA. Employers also qualify for dollar-for-dollar reimbursements through tax credits for all qualifying wages paid under the federal paid sick leave and paid FMLA mandates, CBIA explains.
During a crisis, such as what we’re experiencing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, communicating with employees efficiently is extremely important. Allow employees to come to you with questions, and answer those questions by sharing pertinent information with everybody in the company.
Maintain continuous communication with workers throughout the pandemic by leveraging your technology tools, such as your mass notification solution. It's very important to keep your employees in the loop throughout all phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it's alerting people of an infected individual, explaining reopening plans, or simply checking in to see how everybody is doing.
Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12 education, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!
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